It's hard to believe that a little over two years after doing the linocut course at Birmingham Printmakers I am sitting here blogging as a full time artist! I renewed my Car Insurance the other day and had to give 'artist' as my profession as I suppose that is what I am, It makes me smile, although it is also quite scary. There's still a long way to go until it could actually pay my way in life!! Still, never say never!
I haven't actually done a review of the year as a linocut or a drawing (idea for next year?) - but the collection above comes from my instagram feed (if you click on the picture it should take you there) where you can get your most popular pictures from the year pulled through to make a lovely montage! It is missing one of my favourite from the year though - my White Tailed Eagle from our Norway trip, so I'll probably add him at the bottom. It's a lovely reminder of some of the different things I've done this year - although you will notice that #projectBlueTit makes another appearance! It does make me smile that #projectMagpie One appears too - I really must check to see if it has actually dried yet!!!
(I've tried to be a clever Trevor and have linked things to other blogs where you can go and read more about them if you are interested.... any links should turn your cursor into a little pointy hand when you hover over them and they will open in a new window when you click them....)
It's been a busy year and one of big changes in the Almond household..... I finally knuckled down and signed up to Warwickshire Open Studios in January, and from then on it was kind of "well then, it looks like I need to start getting lots done". If you remember back to my January blog, it was actually a quote on my cereal packet in the morning that got me to just do it.... "If it scares you a little, then it might just be worth doing."
The lovely Hilary offered me a space in her house for Open Studios who I found via the Lonely Arts Column - then I needed things to sell! I found a great chap to print up some of my drawings professionally as cards and prints (Rennison Publications in Earlsdon, Coventry) and started making more prints as well as framing some of my original drawings and prints. The tiny bedroom at our house has also been changed from 'general storage dumping room' to a little art studio - the light in there in the morning is just lovely. It is great to have a space to work in that doesn't turn the rest of the house into a place of chaos - although I am still doing my printing in the kitchen.
I loved doing Open Studios and met lots of great people through it. It also gave me confidence that I was 'OK at this thing'. I will be signing up again in January for 2018.
The biggest change came at the end of July when I left my job as an Assistant Head. Hubby and I had made a decision back in January that we were both going to take some time out from work. It was actually quite hard to start off with making myself sit down and actually do art stuff. All of a sudden (after a lovely holiday and a 50 mile race in the Lake District) I had all of this time that hadn't been there before...... Dave finished at the end of August and then we had a bit more time away trying to switch off!
In between being away I was contacted by The Herbert Art Gallery who asked if I wanted to take part in a ceramics and print fair they were hosting; this kind of sped up the next part of the artiness happenings as I decided I needed to get my website sorted and a web store set up too (#projectOnlineShop)..... there was a lots of time spent in front of the computer sorting stuff out, (including a trial product of selling my husband for a penny to see if it worked - it turned out a penny was too cheap and I had to buy 100 of him!) and then finally in the middle of November it went live! In October I spoke to the lovely Jenny at Badgers Tea Room at Brandon Marsh Wildlife Centre and offered to frame some of my art for her to hang on the walls there; it was lovely to take mum and dad over just after Christmas to show them, as well as having a mighty fine cuppa and a great wander around the nature reserve in the snow - I do love going there, well worth a visit.
I have had a couple of commissions for lovely people which I have loved doing (I've added #projectPoppy and also my latest commission - #projectDipper - below too, I will do another blog about more recent work in the New Year), as well as enjoying turning some of my other drawings into prints. The plan for the next month or so is to focus more on drawing, I have some ideas of some creatures (feathered and non-feathered!) I'd like to do, and then I will turn back to the printing - I have my next idea for a reduction linocut sorted already. Knowing how things work though, I'll probably end up multitasking! If you have any requests for any creatures - feathered or furry, or scaly, let me know. And of course I will keep on blogging - is there anything else you would like to see? Would a page in starting up in printmaking and the equipment you would need be handy?
Next steps for the beginning of 2018 are to get an etsy store up a running - although I have the website shop it would be good to have another marketplace set up to be able to get a few more folk seeing my artwork. I also have somewhere that I will be taking my cards and digital prints to sell too - more info when they are actually there! And then it will be finding more art fairs to be able to visit and sell my wares. I know I've asked before, but if you wouldn't mind sharing any of my links you do see via facebook etc, that would be marvellous. You can find my facebook page here. (Clicking on the here will work!!) or my twitter feed is here. Thank you.
OK, all that is left if for me to say a HUGE thank you for your support over the year, here's to an exciting 2018!
Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year.
The Waxwings have left their Coventry nest, so it is time for the annual Christmas card blog! (Apologies if this is a spoiler for you...) The thought process for my Christmas card started a little earlier this year, I had decided on doing a Waxwing at some point earlier in the year and the thought simmered away for a bit. They are one of my favourite birds - I was fortunate enough to see a big flock on a trip to Suffolk earlier on in the year (March) as part of last year's Christmas present from Dave, they are such fabulous birds :-)
I knew I wanted to get some colour into the cards as well, as they have such distinct markings on their wings - the red 'blobs' are the reason the Waxwings have their name, and such beautiful yellow markings on their wings and tail ends too, although with my Waxwing, the yellow is folded underneath so you can't see it. They're well worth a google to see more photos of them 'in the feather' so to speak. We also follow waxwings UK on twitter, and they are currently returning to the UK, so I hope I get to see them again next year too if I am lucky.
This print meant trying something new again - hand colouring onto the card after printing, and it took a little while to find a suitable pen that coloured satisfactorily onto the brown card, which in itself matches (almost, in an artistic way) the main colour of the Waxing. I finally settled on trying Posca pens, which I wasn't disappointed with and am pleased with the way the colour comes through on the card. They are almost like a 'paint pen' and have also been used for other things already - the white is particularly useful! The only gripe I have against them is the tip on the pen is a bit scratchy - but that is because I had to get a fine tip, the larger tips are meant to be more like felt tips I think. The printing wasn't actually too bad - with other prints I have made onto the cards previously there is a much bigger area of black, which is much harder to get printing well with my trusty spoon! I've included some pictures below in the slideshow as usual to show the process. I had to print in two batches to get them all done. The first set were printed at the some time as #projectFrog, and the second batch a couple of days later.
As well as the Waxwing cards I also made some Penguin cards this year, trying out a soft cut rubber (Speedball Easy Carve) rather than lino or vinyl which makes for a very quick cut and stamps well using an ink pad, which I made to sell at 'Making Merrier' at the Hebert Art Gallery evening in early December. It was lovely having people talk to me about where the cards were going that they had bought; one for a penguin mad daughter, another was bought as a wedding card for someone's sister (this version would make a good Valentine's card too - I'll get some on the website for next year!!!) and someone else bought a Phoebe card that was being sent abroad to her mum as it also looked like their dog. I do like hearing the stories of where my art stuff ends up :-) I also had a very funny game of 'Guess the bird' with a couple of folk during the evening :-)
There's been another commission too (which I'll add to the page once I know they've got it), and I've also completed a couple of mini-original drawings which I will get on the website at some point - a robin and a wren. You might be able to spot them in the pictures I've added of my stall at Making Merrier below!
I had another bit of excitement after I'd randomly tweeted Maryanne Hobbs from Radio6Music as part of the #artiseverywhere in relation to her morning radio show from the Turner Prize in Hull (side note - HOORAY FOR COVENTRY CITY OF CULTURE 2021!) when I was not only retweeted by her, but also had Edwyn Collins (he of the singing fame and also an excellent bird artist) comment underneath - he recognised what I had drawn (phew!) - but it wins as my highest ever looked at tweet - just shy of 5,000 so far!
I have had some lovely feedback about my webstore and speed of delivery for Coventry based orders, I'm faster than Amazon Prime allegedly, and the lady in the post office is getting to know me. So.... if you get any Christmas money and fancy a print or something, go and have a gander.... ;-)
Finally, I'd just like to wish you a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful (or not peaceful, depending on what you're into!) New Year, and to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who has supported me over the year; the kind comments both in type and in person have really boosted my confidence to carry on with this and I am really excited and hopeful about where my art might go next. Please, if you can and you don't mind, help by sharing posts and links you might see from me on 'tinterweb, it'd be much appreciated to help get my art out there for more eyes to see. Here's to a marvelous 2018....
(If you click on the pictures in the gallery below, they should grow to full size!)
I seem to be getting into the swing of spending a lot more time doing this art thing, and I am really enjoying it. I'd been thinking about turning my frog drawing into a linocut print for a while, and as it was getting closer to Christmas and I needed to get some Christmas cards done, so of course I leapt at the chance to procrastinate and do something totally different instead!
Starting off #projectfrog was a bit of a headache - the detail on his skin made it an 'interesting' carve, and also deciding which detail to leave in and which to miss out, as there were some aspects and details on the drawing that I was unable to replicate with carving. I am really enjoying being up in my little art room (the tiniest bedroom in the house) although when I have music on and I am beavering away at stuff I have no idea how quick the time is going! It keeps me quiet ;-)
Once I'd got him carved, I had a bit of a ponder about what to do with the background - I tried printing him with a black background and no carving in it, but it looked too dark. So I cut him out and tried him (I don't know why I'm saying he!!) on different backgrounds - in the photo I think you can just see the bittern's beak poking up! I decided I'd probably go for a white background, but also knew that I needed some colour too, so set about carving a second block for printing first with colour, and then overlaying the block with detail.
I'd been doing some reading on the wonderful world of the interweb about mixing colours, and armed with my handy old AA card and a plastic spatula type thing I was pleased with the mix, although it took a while for the colours to blend. My original green was far too vivid, but with the addition of a little black it was much more 'frog like'. I think I've mentioned before what a fabulous thing my big sheet of glass is for rolling out and printing on - I can add ink mixing to the list as well now.... ;-) I decided on a first print run of 12; one I didn't wait to dry and printed the detailed frog plate straight on the top to see how he would look. The overlap of the black background (I'd not carved the background out yet) next to the green looked OK, but printing a large section of black is quite tricky to get uniform with a spoon, so this cemented the need to carve away the lino from the detailed frog so I got a white background. I was really pleased with the way the detail of the frog sat on the green frog background.
The green frogs were left to dry for a couple of days before I then printed the black over the top. It was a definite labour of love, as I kept needing to carve more away of the background as I was printing due to the roller catching bits where I hadn't quite carved enough away. However, in my reading about all things ink, I also found I had been cleaning my inks up all wrong. I use Cranfield Caligo Safe Wash ink, which although oil based uses linseed oil rather than chemically stuff and advertises itself as being able to be washed up with soap and water rather than white spirit (no nasty chemicals, or horrible smells and it's made in the UK too: win, win, win!).... turns out if you squeeze soap onto the inky bits and leave it for a bit then it really does just rise off! Using soap and water together to try and wash it does not. I have never cleaned up so quickly!! It also means I only need to use a little vegetable oil at the end just to get a few stubborn bits off.
#projectfrog has been printed onto A3 paper, with the print towards the bottom of the paper, however to frame him I've cut him down a bit and popped him into an A4 frame, which you can see in the slideshow. It's now time for the merciless plug, as you can now also find #projectfrog in my online shop! Woop! (I've made a 'New Prints' section to be able to add him to for now.
I've enjoyed doing the multi-layer prints, but I think I will return to a reduction linocut for my next printing project.
There's been other things going on too - I have another art fair this Friday at the Herbert Art Gallery again (details on the front page - plug, plug!) and I've turned another one of my inktober drawings into a Christmas card to sell there - two penguins - using some easy carve that I bought to try. This is second time I've used it, it was easier than the first go, but it is just so different to cutting the vinyl or lino that I am used to as it is so much softer. I've also been drawing some 'mini-originals' which I have framed to sell at the fair too. Images coming soon - please get in touch if you have a particular drawing request I could help with...
#projectchristmascard has it's second print run to be completed today (I MUST do this!) and I have another print on the go, both of which will be revealed soon.
OK - time for the slideshow! I also tried doing a little 'reveal video' of my frog print, which I'll see if I can upload - if not, I'll pop it onto instagram or my art facebook page later.
cheers me dears,
Yesterday evening I delivered my very first commission to it's new home! Poppy is the dog of two of our very good friends, and her lovely owners had asked me (during our overlapping holidays in The Lakes) if I could do a lino print of her. Poppy is a Westie cross Schnauzer, and as you can see from the drawing on the left, she is dark coloured! This was going to be a new printing adventure for me as I'd not worked from such a dark subject before! I started in the way I start all of my prints, by drawing! John and Julie sent me lots of photos of Poppy; I eventually picked one that I wanted to work from (it was the ears and eyes that did it!), and the sketching started - initially while we were still away on holiday. The first one Did Not Work. I had the proportions all wrong and eyes in the wrong place, also working in pencil crayons just didn't do her any justice. I got a bit frustrated, left it for a while and then went back to it. This time I was sitting in my favourite place to draw; in the back room on an evening with the fire lit; cosy and relaxed. I know Poppy quite well too, so as cheesy as it sounds, thinking of some of her mannerisms and how she sits and looks at you really helped alongside working from the photos. I really enjoyed drawing her this time. I only had one eye drama - her face just wasn't quite right, but I couldn't put my finger on it..... rubbed out an eye, moved it about 5mm down and bingo! Phew! The finished picture is the one above - completed after an initial pencil sketch, in fine liners (uni pin to be precise!) Once the drawing was done I was excited to move on to the lino print. Working out how to get the lines to create the correct way of producing her fur in the drawing really helped with thinking about the cutting lines I needed to make when creating the print, it was just a matter of making sure I could create the depth in her face. It was also a matter of reversing what I had done in the drawing. In the drawing I was creating dark lines, when I was carving the lino, I was carving away the 'highlights'.
It took two carving sittings and printing sessions for me to get her right; I worked from the drawing and the photograph to help with the details. The first test print helped me to see what I needed to alter (eyes and her hairy muzzle highlights!), and I spent a good while sitting and staring at the test print too. It really helped seeing John and Julie part way through the process to get their feedback on it, and what they wanted for the background as well. I have to say, a white background is really hard when you are as OCD as I am with making sure there aren't any blips! The final print took a good few 'pulls' for me to be happy with the ink consistency and to make sure that the background was really clear of any little inky bits that would randomly get pulled through, even though I swore I was 'printing clean' every time! I think Dave was very relieved when I'd finally got one I was happy with too! I've included some of the process images below, as always, in a slideshow.
I really enjoyed the process of creating something for someone, they now have the original drawing and the final print. I loved packaging them up ready to take over to them and watching them unwrap them :-) They will be the only ones in the world too :-) I've had their permission to share the images on here. (Sorry social media.....! #notsorryreally!!!)
I'm going to start up another page on my website with unique images and prints that I have created for different people - there's a print of my brother's bulldog I did for him and my parents two Christmases ago. If you do fancy a unique print or drawing please drop me an e-mail.
December is here.... that means #projectchristmascard2017 is on the way too..... and there'll be a #projectfrog update soon too! It's been a busy couple of weeks in my little art room! And while you're on the website, go and have a gander in my shop as well..... there's some nice bits and bobs in there you know ;-)
Here they are side by side..... drawing and lino print.
Here we go...
The ramblings of a linocut printmaker.... and other artistic adventures!